Oct. 19, 2021

Herman Barkema receives 2021 Killam Research Excellence Award

Researcher is world leader in One Health, antimicrobial resistance, and cattle health
Herman Barkema
Herman Barkema receives prestigious 2021 Killam Research Excellence Award recognizing his “outstanding contributions” to research. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Dr. Herman Barkema has always liked working in the field with farmers and their cattle. From his native Netherlands, where he completed his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree, to managing a large dairy and beef herd in Costa Rica, to bringing his considerable expertise to the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (UCVM), Barkema has always had a passion for getting his boots on the ground to solve problems for humans and animals.

Now, Barkema, DVM, PhD, FCAHS, and the most cited researcher on cattle diseases in the world, is receiving the prestigious 2021 Killam Research Excellence Award recognizing his “outstanding contributions” to research.

The professor of epidemiology of infectious diseases and NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Infectious Diseases of Dairy Cattle at UCVM, who has a joint appointment in the Department of Community Health Sciences of the Cumming School of Medicine, has spent decades studying and managing infectious disease and promoting health and well-being in both animals and humans, as well as ensuring the integrity and safety of the food supply and supporting animal agriculture, and society.

“It's not a recognition only for myself. I work with large teams, and this one is for all those teams,” says Barkema. “All the research I do is as a group in team science, interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary, and then you get very nice collaborations. All my graduate students also are co-supervised by people with complementary expertise.

Being recognized with this award is not just me. It's all the people that I work with.

Herman Barkema

Barkema says his research involves collaborations with large interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary teams, and “this one is for all those teams.”

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The prolific researcher was nominated for the Killam award by both the O'Brien Institute for Public Health with the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) and UCVM. “These are the two schools that I'm in, and it reflects very well the One Health approach that I use,” says Barkema. “I really like that.”

Being able to collaborate with clinicians and scientists within both the O’Brien Institute and UCVM was “one of the main reasons why I came to Calgary,” he says. “This award is really a recognition of that. I feel so at home also at O'Brien Institute. They're human doctors but they just work on a different species. I really like it when people work together.”

One Health is a way to approach complex problems from an animal, human and environmental perspective. As scientific director of the Alberta-wide AMR (Anti-Microbial Resistance) - One Health Consortium, Barkema helps oversee dozens of projects, works to reduce antimicrobial use in the dairy industry and advises scientists around the world about AMR research. AMR is of growing concern globally due to excess antimicrobial use in both humans and animals.

Barkema is also recognized internationally for decades of research into mastitis, the most common disease in dairy cattle, and substantially improving prevention and control programs around the world.

He is also well known for his research into Johne’s disease, a hard-to-treat intestinal disease in cattle that may be associated with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in humans. Barkema is collaborating with colleagues in CSM to improve and identify new “game-changing” therapies for people living with IBD, including Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

“When you involve patients or farmers or stakeholders that have a vested interest in the problem that you can make part of the research and then you translate the knowledge to them in meetings or non-scientific journals, it feels really good,” says Barkema.

“It's not only to produce science and get papers out in good journals, but then also bringing it back to the people that are most affected by it is really important.”

Herman Barkema is a professor in the Department of Production Animal Health at the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). He is also a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health and the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the CSM.